Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jethava’s father writes to President

Jethava's father writes to President
Indian Express

The family of slain RTI activist Amit Jethava on Monday wrote to President Pratibha Patil saying should anything happen to them, Junagadh MP Dinu Solanki must be held responsible.

Bhikha Jethava, Amit's father, said though it's been over a fortnight since Dinu's nephew Shiva's name emerged as the main conspirator in the case, he is still at large. Besides, the police had not been probing the BJP MP's role, he said.

Amit, who had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Gujarat High Court against illegal mining in the vicinity of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, was shot dead on July 20.

"Both Dinu and Shiva are roaming free. My family is in danger. I suspect anything can happen to any of us. For the same reason, I have sent a sworn affidavit to the President of India," said Bhikha.

The slain RTI activist is survived by parents, wife, a daughter and a brother. "He might even kill us in a road accident to make it appear natural. But even in such circumstances, there should be a probe into the incident," said Bhikha.

Jethava's family has already demanded a CBI inquiry into the murder. While the Ahmedabad Crime Branch says Shiva gave supari of Rs 15 lakh to a sharpshooter named Shailesh Pandya to kill Jethava, Bhikha said the amount was Rs 1 crore, which the MP had allegedly raised from various miners from Kodinar on the pretext of fighting legal battle against Amit's PIL.

Over the past few years, Amit had exposed several alleged illegal activities by the MP and his nephew.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Geer set to become lion’s new home

Geer set to become lion's new home
Times of India

Park Officials Get Permission To Acquire The Wild Cats Along With Sloth Bears

The roar of lions will soon be heard at the Indroda Nature Park in Gandhinagar. The Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI) has approved a master plan for the park and authorities are set to start looking for lions and sloth bears for the sprawling forest-like campus.
Recently the park got a pair of tigers. Managed by Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, the park officials will now approach various zoos in the country for a pair of lions and the bear.

The park has one leopard, tigers, wolves, jackals, foxes, wild asses, sambar, nilgai, swamp deer, Thamin deer, chinkara, marsh crocodile, reptiles, flamingos, pelican storks, spoonbill, Ibis among other wildlife. With the acquisition of the additional animals, the park will become a complete educational experience for schoolchildren and others.

A official told TOI, "The pair of tigers had come the Sakarbaugh Zoo in Junagadh. We are also hoping to get lions from the same zoo." In fact, Sakarbaugh has surplus lions. Indroda has already begun developing cages for the wild cats and the sloth bear. The new master plan has also made elaborate arrangements for other animals but officials said the cages would be prepared only after they get the necessary approvals.

What the officials at Indroda are hoping to do is give visitors the feel of a real forest right next to Ahmedabad and not just a zoo by acquiring a range of species and increasing the density of trees here over the years.

Sources said that in 1979 Indroda had just 93.49 hectares of dense forest against the total area of 428 hectares of land that had been earmarked for the park. But today, 384.77 hectares have been forested. In 1979, just 21 per cent of Indroda was forest which is over 89 per cent today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jethava murder: Cops visit Kodinar municipality offices

Jethava murder: Cops visit Kodinar municipality offices
Times of India

City crime branch officials, investigating Amit Jethava murder case, visited Kodinar municipality offices, some parts of Una and Diu on Saturday. According to officials, they found some evidences in the case but needed to verify the facts before making any information public.

According to crime branch sleuths, they have taken Bahadursinh Wadher along for verifying the facts. The arrested cop took them to some of the places where conspiracy was hatched and transfer of money and information took place. Senior officials, however, maintained that paperwork was going on and investigations were on the track.

"We have so far arrested three persons in the case, including Wadher, vehicle thief Haji and middleman Pachan Shiva. Shiva has given us inputs on where and how the entire conspiracy took a definite shape around the middle of June. The most important task at hand is to track down Shailesh Pandya, the shooter, and get the identity of the second assailant who was riding pillion on the bike, when the firing took place on July 20 evening," said a senior crime branch official.

Officials have so far visited Bagodara and Kodinar and found evidence against Wadher and Pachan, along with their mobile call records. A team of officials have started deciphering the mobile phone conversations between various parties to know the faces behind the curtains. "Though the main line of investigation is land mining near Gir and Jethava's protest against it, we would not be surprised if there were other elements in it as well," said an investigator.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

BJP MP’s kin held for Jethava murder

BJP MP's kin held for Jethava murder
Times of India

The police late on Friday detained nephew of BJP MP from Junagadh Dinu Solanki's nephew Shiva Solanki on suspicion of involvement in the murder of whistleblower and green activist Amit Jethava.

Jethava was killed outside Gujarat High Court on July 20 for exposing an illegal mining racket in Gir forest area and other parts of Saurashtra, through a series of RTI applications.

Ahmedabad city crime branch, which is probing the case, first arrested a constable from Kodinar in Junagadh Bahadursinh Wadher for giving a Rs 11 lakh contract for the murder. But the man who shot Jethava, Shailesh Pandya is still on the run.

The police have arrested his accomplice Shiva Pachan, who introduced Pandya to Wadher. The police initially said that Wadher was the main accused because even his illegal mines in Gir had to be closed down because of Jethava's expose.

However now the trail seems to lead to Shiva Solanki alias Pratap, who is vicepresident of Kodinar municipality and nephew of the BJP MP.

The police have proof that Wadher had arranged for a bike from a vehicle thief named Sameer Haji Vohra. Pandya and an unidentified man came on that bike that evening and shot Jethava dead at Satyamev complex opposite Gujarat High Court.

"We are going through their mobile phone records and financial transactions to know how Wadher got the amount paid to Pandya for the murder. We have found some important evidence during our investigations in Junagadh and Rajkot," said a senior crime branch official.

The police believe that Shiva Solanki could be the mastermind behind the murder. The officials have launched an inquiry into the land holdings on disputed land affected by Jethava's RTI applications that stalled mining activities.

Solankis had a large stake in the land mining and they incurred major losses due to government action.

Sources also claimed that Shiva Solanki and Wadher had a meeting in Kodinar where talks about eliminating Jethava took place earlier in April-May. The cops from crime branch want to visit the places where the conspiracy was hatched, including Kodinar, Diu and Bagodara.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lion attacks Woman at Padargadh

20 8 2010
Lion attacks Woman at Padargadh
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A woman names Rasilaben Devipujak (age 27 years) was working in farm at Padargadh village near Dhari. Suddenly a lion attacked and injured her. She was taken to Amreli hospital for treatment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

S’rashtra cop charged with Jethava murder Two Killers Still At Large


S'rashtra cop charged with Jethava murder Two Killers Still At Large

Times of India

Crime branch officials investigating the murder of green activist Amit Jethava last month have arrested a serving police constable and detained two persons late on Monday night in connection with the case. The officials have now started hunt for the two killers who had come on a bike near Gujarat High Court on July 20 and shot Jethava at point blank range.

Police officials refrained from naming any politician or influential person and said it was Bahadursinh Wadher's own ve n d e t t a a g a i n s t J e t h av a that led him to giving his supari to killers.

Addressing mediapersons, Mohan Jha, in-charge joint commissioner of police (crime), said Wadher, 37, a resident of Kodinar, Junagadh, and serving as a constable at Gir Gadhada police station, was arrested. Sameer Haji Rasool Vohra, 34, a resident of Jambu in Surendranagar, and Sanjay Chauhan, 41, a native of Kodinar, were detained for questioning regarding their roles in Jethava murder.

"We got the first clue in the case from the Bajaj Discover motorcycle found on the spot. The number plates were changed but we got the engine and chasis number. When we probed the matter, we knew it was stolen in 1997 and was traced to Vohra, a vehicle thief. We nabbed him and questioned him about the bike and was told that he had given the bike to Bahadursinh a day before the murder," said Jha.

Bahadursinh had his own issues with Jethava. According to officials, he along with a partner had purchased 12 bigha land at Alidar near Gir for mining. However, due to Jethava's RTI campaign, he could not start his project and was forced to sell it at a much lower price. Angry, he decided to get rid of Jethava. He then contacted Shailesh Pandya, an accused in previous firing cases, through Pachan Shiva, his local contact. Shailesh was introduced as Yunus to others during a meeting of the persons involved in the case.
"We have yet to find all the missing links in the case. It is, however, confirmed that it was a supari murder. The accused's remand application has been moved," said Jha.

RS 15 LAKH FOR SUPARI According to investigators, Rs 10 to 15 lakh was decided for killing Jethava. Of that amount, Bahadursinh has told police that Rs 6 lakh changed hands whereas remaining amount had yet to be delivered. Officials are now looking into land records to check Bahadursinh's claims of land near Gir and the cash transaction with Pandya SPECIAL PHOTO SESSION FOR ACCUSED
Crime branch officials had a different approach when they produced Wadher, the accused in Jethava murder case, before media on Tuesday. Instead of the accused covering his face by a cloth and standing beside the policemen, Wadher was made to sit on the floor behind the table, with a cloth covering him completely. The police explained this saying they did not want anybody to identify Wadher from his 'body language'

Amit Jethava

Bahadur Wadher a close aide of BJP MP Dinu Solanki?

Bahadur Wadher a close aide of BJP MP Dinu Solanki?
DNA By Roxy Gagdekar

Bahadur Wadher, the police officer arrested in connection with the Amit Jethava murder, has been controversial as a police official. He is also said to be very close to Dinu Solanki, the BJP MP from Junagadh. Jethava's father has accused Solanki of being the mastermind behind the murder.

"Wadher was transferred to his current posting because of the pressure exerted by Solanki on the Junagadh district superintendent of police," alleged Jethava's father, Bhikhu Jethava. Bhikhu also claimed that Wadher and many of his associates were working for Solanki.

The police officer was posted at Surendranagar before being transferred to Kodinar. "He is suspected of involvement in many crimes during his posting in Kodinar, including murder," Bhikhu Jethava said. Later, Wadher was transferred to Una from Kodinar and then again to Surendranagar.

"From Surendranagar, he was transferred to his last posting due to Solanki's influence," Bhikhu claimed.

Jethava killing: Probe points to MP’s family

Jethava killing: Probe points to MP's family
Times of India By Prashant Dayal

The supari for the killing of whistleblower and RTI activist Amit Jethava was given by a Junagadh-based politician. This the city crime branch has found in its investigations so far.

On Tuesday, the police arrested constable Bahadursinh Wadher from Kodinar in Junagadh and presented him as the person who gave the Rs 15 lakh supari for the killing. Sources in the crime branch, however, told TOI that the plot trail goes up to Shiva Solanki alias Pratap, vice-president of Kodinar municipality and nephew of BJP MP Dinu Solanki. Wadher and Solanki know each other well.

"We don't want to stop at Shiva. We will go beyond and find out the people behind the plot, for which we are seeking evidence," said an officer.

When asked about the MP's involvement, at a press conference, joint police commissioner Mohan Jha said, "I am not saying that Dinu Solanki has been given a clean chit, but I won't make a statement at this stage."

Jha told mediapersons that it was Wadher who owned up to plotting the killing and giving the supari. But the investigators believe he is covering someone and this could be Shiva. Jethava had done an expose through RTI on Shiva Solanki's land mines which almost led to the nagarpalika being superceded.

At the press conference, however, the police said that even Wadher had illegal mines in Gir which Jethava had exposed and hence he settled a score with him by killing him.

The police have detained two more persons, including Shailesh Pandya who had shot at Jethava. The activist was shot dead outside Gujarat high court by two persons on July 20.

The police have also discovered that before the murder Wadher came to Ahmedabad and stayed at a police inspector's house in east Ahmedabad to do a recce. Crime branch believes that this inspector was unaware of Wadher's motive.

The crime branch will also question an assistant commissioner of police who kept tabs on the progress of investigations in the case.

Middleman drove minister's car before Jethava's murder

Middleman drove minister's car before Jethava's murder
Times of India

In a strange coincidence, Shiva Pachan, the man detained by the crime branch in the murder of whistleblower and RTI activist Amit Jethava, worked temporarily for a former minister.

Pachan had, for a month, driven the car for this man who was a minister of state in the Modi government before Jethava's murder.

Jethava was killed on July 20 outside Gujarat high court, reportedly after he exposed illegal mining in Gir by influential people through RTI applications.

Pachan, suspected to have introduced the killer Shailesh Pandya to constable Bahadursinh Wadher from Kodinar, is a bootlegger from Patan and used to ferry the liquor himself. He could easily hoodwink the cops and smuggle liquor into Gujarat. He also has an attempt to murder case against him in Patan, in which he was declared an absconder. The minister probably did not know Pachan's background, said sources.

Wadher was arrested on Tuesday for giving the supari for killing Jethava. He got to know Pachan when he was in the state prohibition squad. When Pachan was jailed in a kidnapping case, Wadher helped him get parole in April this year. It was during this parole that Pachan took up the job of the minister's chauffeur. It was an MP from Saurashtra who got Pachan and the minister together and got him the temporary job, when the minister had stopped using the official car and also did not keep a personal security officer (PSO).

So, Pachan played a dual role of chauffeur and bodyguard for this particular minister. Wadher then approached him with the Jethava job and he quit the driver's job. When contacted, crime branch officials claimed they did not know about this little stint of Pachan.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2 cops held for role in Jethava’s murder

2 cops held for role in Jethava's murder
Times of India

The city crime branch on Monday arrested two p o l i c e m e n from Junagadh for their involvement in the killing of whistleblower and RTI activist Amit Jethava on July 20.

Bahadur Wadher, a police constable posted in Kodinar town of Junagadh and Sanjay Jhankar, a lok rakshak posted at Una checkpost, were arrested by the crime branch after they confessed to having paid Rs 15 lakh to the gunman for eliminating Jethava.

Jethava was shot dead on the spot with a countrymade revolver at Satyameva Jayate complex opposite the Gujarat High Court when he was about to get into his car. Through RTI applications, he had exposed the land mining mafia in Saurashtra which was already baying for his blood. Politician may be behind Jethava murder: Cops

Ahmedabad: The city crime branch has found definite leads to a political motive behind the murder of whistleblower and RTI activist Amit Jethava.

A top political leader from Saurashtra is being suspected of have paid to kill Jethava through his nephew identified as 'Pratap' who is close to police constable Bahadur Wadher from Kodinar in Junagadh.

The police are believed to have brought four more persons for questioning in this case, from Porbandar.

Pratap is currently president of the local municipality, against whom Jethava had also lodged a complaint. The allegations on him were that all the property that he built in the name of the community, were transferred to his own name and Jethava had filed an RTI on this. The revelations in this RTI led to the municipality being superseded.

The police also confirmed that it was Wadher who had escorted the sharpshooter Shailesh, to Ahmedabad and paid him off after the killing. Now the police are investigating, who had given the contract for murder. Jethava's father had alleged that his son's was a political murder .

The cops were mediators in the killing. A case was lodged in Sola police station. However, after the two cops were brought for questioning Ahmedabad police commissioner SK Saikia, transferred the case to Ahmedabad crime branch. An investigation team of sub-inspectors from different police stations has been constituted to aid the crime branch.

Thief who stole bike used in murder nabbed Crime branch officials have nabbed a man identified as Haji in connection with Amit Jethava murder case. Sources said the bike used by the assailants in the murder was stolen from Dhandhuka from a jeweller's house. During police investigation, it was revealed that the bike was delivered to Ahmedabad by Haji. The officials also got to know that the plan for Jethava's killing was made in Kodinar on July 20, the day he was shot dead. In that meeting, Haji was called up and instructed to give the bike to Shailesh, who had shot Jethava at close range.

Amit Jethwa

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dead Lioness found

Dead Lioness found
Divya Bhasker
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A carcass of two year old lioness was found in Jhankhiya round Babariya range on Sothern most periphery of Gir forest. Her body was without any injuries and claws were intect. Deputy Conservator of Forest, Mr. katara said death was due to illness. Carcass is sent for postmortem to find out exact cause of death.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cabinet approves bill to protect whistleblowers

Cabinet approves bill to protect whistleblowers
Times of India

The much awaited legislation on protection for whistleblowers got the go-ahead from the Union Cabinet on Monday. The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, provides the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) powers of a civil court to enable it punish and penalise people revealing the identity of whistleblowers.

As per the Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament, the onus will be on the CVC to protect the identity of citizens who provide information about the misuse of governmental authority and funds.

While the CVC will be empowered to take action against those who reveal the identity of the whistleblowers or those who threaten them, those who make frivolous complaints will also be liable to be punished. The Bill also proposes that no court can interfere in the case and can have any powers over the decision made by CVC.

The law, which was conceived in the wake of the gruesome murder of NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey who complained against corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral project, was supported by the Law Commission in its 2002 report. The apex court had also asked the government to come out with a proper legislation to protect whistleblowers.

The Bill, which has provisions to prevent victimisation of whistleblowers and shield them from so-called disciplinary action, will cover central, state and public sector employees. It has clauses which provide for fine and penalties to people, who punish those exposing corruption. The CVC will be the nodal authority to handle complaints against the state, central government or PSU employees.

In the recent past, there has also been a rise in the number of attacks on RTI activists across the country. In the latest incident, activist Amit Jethwa was shot outside the high court in Ahmedabad last month. Jethwa had named BJP's Junagadh MP Dinu Solanki while exposing illegal mining in the Gir forest area in Gujarat.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Safeguard Whistle-blowers

Safeguard Whistle-blowers
Times of India

The recent spate of murders and physical assaults involving Right to Information activists in the country there have been eight murders and 20 serious attacks so far this year including the brazen murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa highlights the need for a strong law to protect whistle-blowers and deal with complaints filed by them. In the US and other western countries there are specific laws to protect whistle-blowers. They are all the more necessary in India where corruption is endemic and whistleblowers have little protection.

It is imperative, therefore, that Parliament should immediately pass the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2009, to protect whistle-blowers and activists.

Jethwa was murdered by gunmen outside the Ahmedabad high court a few days after he filed a PIL there naming an MP allegedly involved in illegal mining in the reserved Gir Forest area. Prior to Jethwa, National Highway Authority of India's Satyendra Dubey and Indian Oil Corporation's Manjunath Shanmugham were killed because they exposed corruption. These murders highlight the dangers to those who unearth the rot in the system. The RTI whose whole objective is to impart greater transparency to the system has little meaning if those who seek information under it cannot be protected. The same goes for whistle-blowers inside organisations where there is corruption. That's why legislation with some teeth is needed.

The proposed law appears to fit the bill, as it seeks to empower any person to file a complaint of corruption or disclosure against any central, state and public sector employee to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Further, as the nodal authority, the CVC would have powers of a civil court to summon, order police investigation and provide security to the whistle-blower. Also, under the law, if a whistle-blower's identity is compromised or if he is victimised, the individual's superiors will be held liable. Moreover, to handle frivolous complaints, there are provisions for penalties in the law.

While the law doesn't specifically mention RTI activists, it should nonetheless take care of their long-standing demand for such safeguards. In the law, the public interest disclosure has been defined as any information that indicates misuse of public money or authority and the persons providing such information are defined as whistle-blowers. However, more could be done in this regard such as incorporating similar provisions in the RTI Act. A multiple system of vigilance authority is also desirable. In addition to the CVC, the government should aggressively push for the appointment of lokayuktas with real powers to act as a check on state governments.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gir lioness electrocuted in village

Gir lioness electrocuted in village
Indian Express

A young lioness died of electrocution at Sapar village in Visavadar taluka, located on Gir Wildlife Sanctuary periphery, of Junagadh district on Monday. A case of negligence will be registered against owner of farm where the incident occurred, said forest officials.

"A three-year-old lioness was found dead at Sapar village. The postmortem report showed she died of electric shock," said Gir (West Division) deputy forest officer R D Katara. The postmortem was done at the spot where the incident occurred.

The preliminary investigation revealed the lioness had stepped on a live wire inside the farm of one Dhanji Vekaria when she strayed out of the forest area in search of food. Forest officials said before she died, the lioness had preyed on a buffalo from the same village. "The wire was touching the ground," said Katara.

Lioness dies of electric shock

Lioness dies of electric shock
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

This incidence took place outside Gir forest at Shapur village of Visawadar Taluka.

Lioness killedone bullock and injured another bullock in the farm of Dhanji Anand Vekariya on Bhalgam road in SHapur village. In the morning when he reached his farm, he found carcases of the lioness. He immediately informed ACF Kandoriya. Primary investigation by forest staff suggest that this may be due to electic shock from a live wire in the farm.

Previous Posts